I’m a big fan of “True Blood” and was thrilled that HBO recently sent me the first four episodes of Season 2 on a special preview DVD. I’ve made it through two of the episodes already and they’re great, especially the subplot about a self-possessed teenager who is now a newly created vampire. I’ll be writing more on “True Blood” soon but in the meantime: Jessica Gelt, one of my colleagues at the Los Angeles Times, has a fun story on the show that I thought you might enjoy. — G.B.
The bomb that shattered the living room left carnage in its wake. The floor is slick with blood, tattered bodies litter the room, entrails dangle from the ceiling and an unrecognizable mass of goo stuck to the wall erratically spurts jets of mauve blood.
“I’m gonna ask everyone to clear the set who is not actually dying on it,” yells Scottie Gissel, a first assistant director for HBO’s hit vampire series “True Blood,” which launches into its second season of sensational Gothic gore and lusty, undead romance next Sunday. (Viewers will see the scene of explosive destruction that Gissel is stage-managing late in the season.)
On this sunny afternoon, the cast and crew work in overdrive on a gloomy, fog-soaked soundstage at the Lot on Santa Monica and Formosa. They labor with the assuredness of a project vindicated. After getting off to a rocky start critically last fall, “True Blood,” based on the books by Charlaine Harris and created by Alan Ball, who created “Six Feet Under” and wrote “American Beauty,” steadily built its audience to emerge as HBO’s most popular show in recent years, with an average of 7.8 million viewers watching each episode by the end of Season 1.
With a fervent fan base, including nearly half a dozen fan-run websites that HBO — in a forward-thinking approach to managing public opinion — actively fosters, “True Blood” is hoping to prove with its sophomore season that even in the “Twilight” age of vampire overkill, it can maintain its success.
“True Blood” takes place in a world where vampires have come out of the coffin, so to speak, aided by the invention of a synthetic blood substitute called Tru Blood that helps keep their primal appetites at bay. Still, prejudice against the undead abounds, with many of the show’s human characters motivated by a hate and fear that is as gruesomely destructive as that of even the most unrepentant bloodsucker.
Season 1 established the main action: “True Blood” is set in the fictional backwater town of Bon Temps, La., where a telepathic good girl named Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) works as a waitress in a raucous bar called Merlotte’s. When a mysterious vampire named Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) comes to town, Sookie falls in love with him. A high body count and muddy graveside sex ensue.
Ball initially read “Dead Until Dark,” the first in Harris’ “Southern Vampire” series, five years ago. By the time “Six Feet Under” was filming its final season, he was interested in doing something with the books on television. Sitting on a couch in his bungalow office on the Lot, Ball says the cultural clout of his broodingly dark funeral-parlor drama left critics and the public unsure of what to think of the zany, Saturday matinee movie serial that is “True Blood.”
“When people approach me about ‘Six Feet Under’ they say, ‘Oh my God, that show meant so much to me, I lost my mother last year,’ ” says Ball, putting one shorts-clad knee up on the couch. “With ‘True Blood,’ it’s more like, ‘Dude, I love your show. It rocks!'”
– Jessica Gelt
RECENT AND RELATED
PHOTO GALLERY: Scenes from Season 2 of “True Blood”
All images courtesy of HBO